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Al Andalus Paradox Mega-LP

by Hashim

Part 44: The League War

Chapter 12 – The League War – 1590 to 1600

The end of the sixteenth century was nigh and war was raging all across the old world, with the religious turmoil and internal unrest that had been brewing for decades finally erupting into flames. In the west, almost the entirety of Europe had been dragged into the League War, sparked off by the Protestant Union submitting a list of ridiculous demands to the Emperor in Bavaria. Even before the demands were formally rejected, armies had clashed and battles fought, promising to be a devastating conflict for all involved.

Another theatre of the League War was in Russia, where the once-powerful Mongol Emirate of Bogorji finally being pushed pack the rising power of Smolensk, whose ambitions stretched across all of Eastern Europe.

Religious warfare had also erupted further south, though this struggle was far older the Catholic-Protestant conflict. With no warning at all, King Alexander of Crusader Egypt had raised a large host and marched into the Hejaz, vowing to raze the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina in the name of God.

This obviously drew the ire of the entire Muslim world, but most were preoccupied with their own conflicts to lend aid to the Sharif of Mecca. Only the Vakhtani Caliph Istar – Alexander’s principal rival, still nursing his wounds after losing the last war – intervened, and pushed into the Levant with the largest army he could muster.

In the Far West, things weren’t going so well either. The Great Feng had reached its apex, but with the succession of an infant to the throne, the massive empire was beginning to keel over its own weight. The royal court in Khanbaliq had already descended into dangerous intrigues and infighting over control of the young emperor, bringing the entire country to a standstill.

The fighting weren’t limited to Khanbaliq either, as rebellions broke out all across China and the steppe, with both disaffected tribes and Han Chinese nobles rising up in revolt, determined to overthrow the decadent court and install themselves as rulers. After almost two hundred years of uncontested supremacy, it was beginning to look like the Feng had lost the Mandate of Heaven.

With turmoil raging all across the world, Iberia was one of the few places where some much-needed peace finally arrived.

The past century had not been kind to Al Andalus, a power that had once been on the ascendancy as a dominating power in Europe. Weak-willed sultans, court intrigues and the ambitions of the Majlis all played their part in unravelling that, however, leaving Andalusia on its knees after a series of lost wars and ruinous rebellions.

And of course, everyone had their own idea on how to best recover. The queen mother Fatima had firm control over the Sultan and his court, and was all too willing to execute any advisors who attempted to subvert her.

When members of the Majlis tried to do the same, she simply bought their silence with heavy bags of gold, or a good sharp knife where that didn’t work. She wouldn’t give up her hold on power, not willingly.

The largest faction in the Majlis – the League of Merchants – had no qualms with the Sultana. They were focused on the ongoing expeditions at the western continent of Gharbia, exacting heavy tolls on its wealth and channelling it towards Qadis.

After decades of searching, the Majlis finally chanced upon gold mines whilst scouting the lands bordering the native Tlanapec Empire. They were few and far in between, but locals promised that more mines lay further inland, so resources were quickly focused in these territories and dozens of new settlements sprouted up over the next few years.

Before long, these colonies grew so numerous that a governor had to be appointed to oversee their development, much like in Juzur Qarbiya. The ancient noble family of Azamid was thus appointed to the Muqta of Ibriz, which roughly translates into the "Governorship of the Golden Lands".

Meanwhile, back in Iberia, the Ulema were granted permission to continue conversion efforts in non-Dhimmi cities. Much of the territory conquered over the past two centuries had already become majority-Muslim, but there still existed a large Christian population in the Aragonese Zaragoza, not to mention the firmly-entreched Shias of Granada.

An inquisitor was appointed to oversee a new order of missionaries established in Zaragoza and nearby Christian towns – the heretic cities would be left in peace, for now at least.

The Taifas, meanwhile, were busy attempting to reform the New Mubazirun. The previous war with France had revealed fundamental problems with the army, but the leadership of the Mubazirun proved resistant to any reforms, leading to the military technology quickly falling behind France and the rest of Europe.

Whilst tensions began brewing between the Majlis and the army, a now-obsolete fortress along the border with France was torn down and replaced with two new bastions, the funding of which came chiefly from the nobles.

At the same time, Qadis managed to solidify its relationship with the Zuwawi Emir – in exchange for the continued protection of Al Andalus, he would serve as a vassal to the Sultan and bend to his authority, giving the Majlis legitimate claims on Morocco in the event of a future war.

Sultana Fatima, on the other hand, was focused on internal development. Now that Qadis was the official capital again, she began an ambitious program to clear out the rubble and rebuilt the homes and monuments that had been destroyed during the sack of the city, earning her the adoration of much of the capital’s population.

She was also the driving force behind the founding and construction of the University of Cádiz, a new institution intended to replace the ancient House of Knowledge, now nothing more than an old memory. The Sultana offered huge monetary grants to attract leading scholars to her new university, and under her careful watch, an atmosphere of renewed learning began to grow once more.

The years of peace and recovery passed quickly, with the Majlis adamantly refusing to be drawn into any of the wars surrounding them. Whilst the army gradually became a nest of corruption and nepotism, the League of Merchants invested into reconstructing the war navy, rebuilding it into the strongest power on European seas.

Regular distractions in the capital were the arrival of countless emissaries, all carrying word of France’s many victories in the League War. Apparently, a series of stunning battlefield victories had seen the kingdom annex vast stretches of land in the Low Countries.

By 1596, any resistance the Emperor could put up was utterly demolished, and the entirety of Bavaria and its imperial territories were occupied by Protestant forces. Its principal allies – Provence, Poland and Croatia – were all similarly demolished and resigned into signing separate peaces with the King of France.

Eventually, the Emperor was forced into surrendering unconditionally, with any attempts to negotiate quickly stifled. France’s terms were non-negotiable, and in addition to ceding land to both France and Italy, the Emperor was forced to abdicate the throne to the Protestant prince of Brabant - little more than a puppet to Paris.

The Majlis was obviously worried by France’s decisive victory and growing strength, but their attention was drawn eastward not long later, where the Egyptians had managed to capture Medina – the city of the Prophet.

Again, Muslim countries from Iberia to India threatened the king with severe consequences, but again, only the Armenians actually did something about it. After defeating the Crusaders in a conclusive battle in Syria, Caliph Istar led his armies south and descended on Alexandria, proclaiming himself the "Saviour of the Holy Cities".

Attention shifted back westward, however, with the sudden death of Sultana Fatima. She had been getting on in the years, so foul play wasn’t really considered, but to many it had seemed as though she'd be too stubborn for even death to claim. Her passing was celebrated by the many enemies and foes she'd accumulated over the years, especially those in the Majlis, who were now free to empower themselves.

Any elation or celebrations were cut short just days later, however, upon the arrival of an emissary from Paris. Fresh from his victories in the League War, the king of France turned south again, declaring his intention to reclaim the entirety of Christian Iberia…

The Majlis had not expected another war so soon, especially since France had spent the past six years embroiled in one of Europe's deadliest and most devastating conflicts. A call to arms was quickly sent out to their allies - Tunis, Zuwawi, Palermo, Provence - who honoured their pledges and joined the war in Andalusia’s defense.

Armies were quickly reinforced with new recruits and sent north, but the first battle broke out not on land, but along the coasts of Valencia, where the Andalusi Navy intercepted a large French fleet. A fierce naval battle followed, but the Andalusi were superior both in numbers and tactics, and the French were dealt a crushing defeat.

Buoyed by news of their first victory, the New Mubazirun pushed on its first offensive to put a stop to the French advance, pinning down a large enemy army near the fortress of Valencia.

This engagement didn’t go nearly so well as the previous, however. The Mubazirun had not been seriously reformed or advanced in decades, and this showed as it was utterly outclassed by the numerically-inferior French army, forced to fall back in disarray after just two hours of fighting.

When news of the humiliating defeat reached Qadis, the Majlis reacted by recalling Abdul-Razzaq Khadija to lead the New Mubazirun. Once he reached the army, Abdul-Razzaq pushed towards Balansiyyah once again with the entirety of his forces, throwing its full weight at just 15,000 Frenchmen.

It was through sheer numbers that the Andalusi emerged victorious, because the French outclassed them in every other way. Their leadership was made up of veteran generals, their communication system flowed smoothly, their weaponry loaded faster and had far greater range...

It was clear that the New Mubazirun wouldn't be able to withstand a larger French army, however, so Abdul-Razzaq decided to avoid another pitched battle at all costs, instead resorting to ambush tactics and opportunistic attacks.

Once his spies informed him that the French had retreated all the way back to Narbonne, Abdul-Razzaq pushed forward on a forced march and captured the weakly-garrisoned castle of Teruel.

He spent the next few weeks organising raids across the Pyrenees and falling back with haste at the first sight of the French, always wary, always on his guard, always one step ahead. He didn’t launch another offensive for almost a year, only marching north when news reached him that the majority of the French forces had invaded Provence.

With the bulk of the French army hundreds of miles away, Abdul-Razzaq led a sudden attack on a strategic mountain-fortress along the Pyrenees, capturing it after a bloody assault.

At the same time, a Tunisian army had reached Iberia and managed to capture the fortress of Labourd in a surprise amphibious assault. A small French force was sent to recapture it, so Abdul-Razzaq took the opportunity to surround and annihilate it, scoring a much-needed battlefield victory.

A few days later, he received intelligence that the French had finally managed to capture the fortress of Lyonnais in Provence, after a siege that had stretched out for six long months. They were on the march west now, intent on throwing back the combined Andalusi armies.

Abdul-Razzaq would have ordinarily withdrawn, but a massive battle broke out just north of Cahors, which had been captured by Provence. Hoping a combined Andalusi-Provencal force would be enough to defeat the French, Abdul-Razzaq decided to throw his men into the battle, turning it into one of the largest engagements of the war.

Unfortunately, French technological superiority once again yielded, and Provencal armies were already routed before the Andalusi arrived. The Mubazirun took heavy losses as Abdul-Razzaq attempted to lead an organised retreat, an attempt that quickly broke down into a chaotic mess as thousands of soldiers abandoned their arms and fled the battlefield.

The losses were quickly beginning to pile up, and something had to be done about it. So as the campaigning season came to an end and both sides withdrew to wait the winter out, the Majlis authorised Abdul-Razzaq to take whatever measures he thought necessary to prevail against the French.

So Abdul-Razzaq, still facing stiff resistance to from leading members of the Mubazirun, managed to force through a series of reforms that saw the soldiery armed with better guns and trained in new techniques, all geared towards countering French tactics.

By the time winter broke and spring began, the army was in considerably better shape, and began the march north with renewed vigour. Abdul-Razzaq engaged a 20,000-strong army near Labourd, not with the aim of actually winning the battle, but because he hoped to drawn away the French forces besieging Cahors.

The ploy proved successful and the French siege on Cahors was lifted. The battle didn’t go too badly either, with Abdul-Razzaq’s reforms enabling the Mubazirun to finally stand their own against the French army, though he was still forced to call for a retreat when his front-lines began wavering.

It wasn’t much longer before they pushed north again, however, anxious to notch a much-needed victory. Another large battle broke out towards the end of 1598, and through the careful execution of a series of retreats and counterattacks, Abdul-Razzaq finally managed throw the French back with heavy losses.

Finally feeling confident enough to go on a solo offensive, Abdul-Razzaq led his forces to the fortress at Roussillon a few weeks later, hoping to seal off the French at the Pyrenees.

Whilst the Andalusi were constructing siege weapons and circling around the blockaded fortress, however, the entirety of the Provencal army was pinned down and annihilated in a one-sided battle.

With that defeat, the republic was finally forced to withdraw from the war, signing a separate peace with Paris.

The French were on the move again even before the news reached Abdul-Razzaq, and managed to engage the New Mubazirun down at Roussillon before they could fall back. The Andalusi had the upper hand for much of the battle, but French reinforcements soon arrived and they were forced to fall back, soundly defeated.

Rather than flee west and into friendly territory, however, the Mubazirun instead came to a standstill just a few miles away from where they’d been defeated. There, the French managed to pin them down and force them into another battle, one that ended in complete disaster.

The entirety of the army, almost 30,000 well-trained and well-armed soldiers, were surrounded in a stunning enveloping manoeuvre and utterly crushed. Almost 20,000 men were killed in the heated thick of the battle, with the rest forced into chains only after begging for mercy…

Abdul-Razzaq narrowly managed to escape the slaughter with a few guards, and was forced to smuggle himself back into Andalusia just to inform the Majlis of the disaster at Roussillon. The assembly immediately sued for white peace, but the buoyant French king refused it, demanding complete surrender or nothing at all.

As panic began to engulf the capital, the ever-opportunistic Christian separatists revolted in Qila, demanding independence from Qadis.

Even worse was the information that spies brought back to the Majlis a few weeks later, informing the highest-ranking merchants and sheikhs that Sultan Ubaid of Morocco had signed a secret pact with Muqti Hasan of Juzur Qarbiya, pledging to assist him in any prospective conflicts against Andalusia.

Something had to be done, and quickly. So, in what was becoming a vicious cycle, the Majlis took out massive loans from the merchant establishments of Qadis, sending the sultanate into plummeting debt once more.

The money was used to rebuild the army from scratch, with mercenaries making up the vast majority of its forces, everything but the artillery.

Abdul-Razzaq was given overall command of the new army, along with the full authority to hire or fire commanders as he saw fit. The surviving leadership of the Mubazirun rebelled, but with their strength destroyed at Roussillon, they were quickly rounded up and executed for treason.

The general then chose new commanders to take their places, loyal and capable men, giving Abdul-Razzaq a strong hold over the army.

Once he felt confident enough, Abdul-Razzaq marched the untested army northward, engaging a large French force besieging Zaragoza. The French obviously weren’t expecting another attack so early, and were cut down in their thousands for it, suddenly shifting the scales back in Andalusia’s favour.

A mercenary army was expensive, however, and the Majlis were eager to get the war over and done with. After being dealt another decisive defeat at Navarra, the French finally agreed to peace talks, sending a party of diplomats to meet at Labourd.

The ensuing negotiations ended with the French king agreeing to surrender his title as King of Castille, along with paying a considerable war indemnity to Al Andalus. The terms were relatively light, but they were also humiliating to the French, whilst the nobles and merchants of the Majlis were simply glad to be at peace once more.

And with that, four years of war finally came to an end. Al Andalus, despite mistakes that had very nearly led to its destruction, had emerged from it as the disputed victor, but it still had a ways to go before it could challenge France in its own right. A reckoning between the two powers would come sooner or later, Europe was plainly not big enough for the both of them.

In the days just before the end of the war was announced to the general public, the weakly and sick Sultan Husayn finally passed away, succumbing to death after a brutal bout of pneumonia. He would not be judged kindly by future historians, as a man weak in both body and mind, his life’s achievements amounting to nothing more than the fact that he’d somehow managed to father a son despite his constant illness.

Husayn was succeeded by his only child, Hafid, who immediately began preparations to address the Majlis after being confirmed as the sixteenth sultan of Al Andalus.

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